Why in News?
S Y Quraishi writes: In such cases, like the recent split within the LJP, the election commission must use guidelines and precedents to make a decision.
Syllabus—GS2: Elections related issues
The sudden and dramatic developments in the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) have caused quite a storm in the political circles.
Role of EC & Procedure involved in this regard:
- In cases of party spilt, EC does not take suo motu cognizance but comes into the picture only when a party approaches with its claim.
- Then the commission starts the quasi-judicial proceedings by giving notice to the other faction under Section 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation & Allotment) order 1968, to give its version.
- Both factions are asked to produce evidence in their support.
- The EC examines the claims & counterclaims of the two factions to determine which one has the majority.
- The EC looks at the strength of each group in the party’s organization & in the legislatures applying the test of majority.
- Whenever EC failed to determine the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organization. It fell back on testing the majority among the elected MPs & MLAs.
- A spilt in a political party is not a new phenomenon, there have been several cases in the past.
- The most important one is that of the Indian National Congress spilt in 1969 leading to the formation of Congress(O) & Congress(I).
- Similar splits happen in AIADMK, Janata Dal & Samajwadi Party etc.
- In all these cases the EC went through the above-mentioned process.
- However many of these cases landed in the SC.
- The most significant was that of the INC in 1969 where SC upheld the order of the ECI applying the test of majority.
Mechanism followed by EC before Symbols order came into effect:
- Before 1968, the poll panel issued notification & executive orders under the Conduct of Election Rules 1961
- In 1964, when spilt in CPI happened, the breakaway group approached the ECI urging it to recognize them as the CPI(Marxist) & EC recognized it.
- But at that EC had no guidelines or precedents to fall back, it just used common sense to give its verdict through a notification.
- Very soon the EC decided to frame guidelines & issued the Symbols Orders in 1968.
- In its very first case, the EC applied the test of majority in Congress spilt & the SC upheld the principle & has been followed since then.
- However, in 1997, the EC introduced a new rule under which one faction got the party symbol, while the other had to register itself as a separate party.
- It was a milestone judgment for the EC as the apex court upheld the Constitutional validity of the Election Symbols(Reservation & Allotment) order 1968, giving an executive order the status of subordinate legislation.
- SC in the above case held that the symbol is not a property to be divided between two & in case of a spilt the EC has been authorized to determine which of the rival groups is the party entitled to the symbol.
- And the EC in resolving the dispute does not decide as to which group represents the party but which group is that party.
- The SC in many times upheld the test of majority in the Symbol order to be a valuable & relevant test to decide the dispute.
Its always been the practice of the commission to give detailed & holistic orders that can withstand judicial scrutiny. In this context illustrate that EC’s quasi-judicial or administrative orders always pass the judicial test.